Peaceful co-existence between wolves and sheep farmers is possible, says regional director Europe at International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Joep van Mierlo.

It was Omroep Gelderland that bagged the scoop on May 19th: a wolf pair had settled in the Netherlands for the first time in over a century. The two were spotted in the Veluwe national park. The news was greeted with whoops of delight by many but the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is afraid that others are less enthusiastic and may take action.

Judging from the emotional responses triggered by the return of the wolf, it is easy to see why the animal became extinct in the Netherlands 140 years ago. This time around we must do everything we can to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.

For decades the Netherlands has been conducting an environmental policy destined to lead to the return of the wolf. Over a 20 year period, hundreds of millions of euros were spent on the Natura 2000 network, the Flora and Fauna law and the list of protected species. These efforts in the area of rules and regulations, execution, enforcement and the creation of ecoducts are now resulting in the return of the wolf.

Perhaps farmers never thought it would come to this. Now that it has they are panicking and calling for wolves to be culled, just as in Germany. But killing wolves would amount to a direct destruction of this capital investment. Wolves contribute to our ecosystems and promote an already endangered biodiversity.

Wolves go after deer and boar. Their remains form the basis for the so-called ‘carrion fauna’. They attract smaller carrion eaters, like beetles and butterflies as well as bigger carrion eaters like badgers, stone martens, birds such as the ospreys and even griffon vultures. The excrement of all these animals are spread over large areas and restores the mineral cycle which is out of balance in many of the country’s nature reserves. The wolf plays a key role in this process.

There are ways that have been proven to be effective to keep wolves away from sheep. Simple electric fences are a deterrent to wolves and will limit contact to a minimum. By using netting, and other solutions, farmers and nature lovers together can keep both sheep and wolves safe. If they don’t the wolves in the Netherlands will be doomed – again.


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